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SEPTEMBER 8-9, 2000 9 ELUL 5760

Pop Quiz: For how long should a newly married man refrain from leaving home?

- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"When you will go out to war against your enemies" (Debarim 21:10)

The Torah tells us that when you go out to war G-d will give the enemy in your hands and you will take captives. Is that always the case that when we go to war we will win over our enemies?

The Rabbis tell us this refers to the constant wars we have with out arch-enemy, the yeser hara, the evil inclination. The Torah is teaching us an amazing lesson. If we only go to war with him, already we have won the battle because we know to be aware of his tricks and we are therefore committed to win him. Our problem with the evil inclination is that we let him take over our lives and don't put up any resistance. That's because we feel we don't stand a chance with him. But the truth is that if we attempt to fight him, we are more than halfway there and then Hashem will give him to us in our hands. As the Selihot season begins, we should know that by coming to Selihot and minyan or classes, we are going out to war with the yeser hara. Then Hashem will help us by giving him into our hands even in other areas so that we can truly better our lives. Shabbat Shalom.

- Rabbi Reuven Semah

"When you will go out to war against your enemies" (Debarim 21:1)

Our perashah begins with a practical discussion of a Jewish soldier that goes to war. The Torah instructs the soldier how to deal with a captured woman. The Hatam Sofer explains that our discussion is also referring to a different war, not a military confrontation but a spiritual one with our greatest enemy, the yeser hara, our own evil desires. Just like he tries to capture us we must try to capture him! We must learn from his tactics. His tactics are simple but deadly. Today he tells us to do the "little" sin, tomorrow the bigger one, and the third day, "idolatry!" (Shabbat 105).

This strategy can be used by our "good side," our yeser hatob, to capture our yeser hara. Do not wait until the last minute, the day before Rosh Hashanah, to change over from a bad person to a righteous one. We must adjust ourselves slowly, from the early times. We say in the Amidah every day, in the berachah "Hashibenu," "Return us, our Father, to Your Torah. Our King, bring us closer to serve you, and return us to full teshubah to you." The formula is right there for us. First, increase our Torah study, with depth and analysis. Secondly, "to serve you" refers to prayers. Increase our concentration and understanding in our prayers. And then surely, the third, "return us to teshubah" will follow.

My friends, the month of Elul has begun. Let us increase our attendance to our classes. Let us pray with a minyan, with feeling, especially during Selihot. These two things, with a true desire to capture our yeser hara, to make teshubah will work. Let's roll up our sleeves and get to work! Shabbat Shalom.

- Rabbi Yaacov Ben-Haim

"When a camp shall go out against your enemy, you shall guard yourself against any evil thing." (Debarim 23:10)

The Ramban gives us the following message on this verse: "What seems correct in my eyes concerning this commandment is that Scripture warns us about a time fraught with sin. It is well known that armies on the move eat any abominable thing. They steal and plunder. So the Torah warns us, 'You shall guard yourself against any evil thing.'"

We must review this lesson well, especially in the month of Elul. We must be patient and deliberate, weighing carefully all of our actions and doing serious introspection in preparation for the Days of Judgment. In light of the above, Rabbi Shemuel Pinhasi finds a new dimension in the following Gemara (Hulin 105a): "Shemuel said, 'In this matter, I am vinegar that has come from wine [I am on a lower level than my father}. My father would take stock of his property twice a day, while I do this only once a day." Shemuel is being consistent with his opinions here, for he has said that someone who surveys his property every day spends his time well [in that he notices the problems in his field and fixes them - Rashi]."

Couldn't Shemuel find anything better for which to praise his father other than spending his precious time concerned with his fields? And if Shemuel spent more time studying Torah and less time with his fields, is that a reason to denigrate himself by calling himself "vinegar"?

Shemuel was using the example of a field figuratively. He meant that his father would evaluate all the facets of his life twice a day. He would "mend his fences" and "remove his stones," elevating himself in piety and holiness. Shemuel himself would perform such evaluation and self-judgment only once a day. So in comparison with his father, he considered himself as vinegar is to wine.

At least during this solemn month, we should make an accounting of our lives as befits a Jew. We must exercise patience and pull ourselves out of the rushing stream of the routine of life. Shabbat Shalom.


"You shall surely send away the mother bird" (Debarim 22:7)

The Talmud states that I might think this only applies if one needs the mother bird for personal use. But if one needs it for a misvah, I might think that one has a right to take it. Therefore, the Torah repeats the term which denotes sending to teach us that even if you need it for a misvah, you must send away the mother bird.

Rabbi Chayim Mordechai Katz used to say on this that someone might think that if he needs the bird for a misvah, he need not be concerned with feelings of compassion. That is the lesson here: even when you are engaged in fulfilling a misvah, you must be sensitive to the pain and suffering of others. Do not use your involvement in a misvah as an excuse to disturb others. For example, if you are studying Torah, do not do so in a loud voice if that would prevent others from falling asleep. Once it was difficult to find ten people for an early minyan for minhah where the Hazon Ish prayed. By the time they had ten people it was already a quarter to one in the afternoon. Rabbi Shmuel Greineman asked his brother-in-law, the Hazon Ish, "What should I do? I told someone I would meet him at my house at one o' clock. Now that we are starting the afternoon prayers a bit later than usual, I will not be able to make it on time for the appointment. Is it proper to make that person wait?" The Hazon Ish replied, "Someone who cleaves to the trait of truth will not even have a question in this instance."

Even though the early minyan was losing its tenth person and had to be foregone that day, the Hazon Ish told his brother-in-law that there is no question that coming on time is a matter of truthfulness. (Growth through Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: One year.

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